How to can your own homemade pickled peaches (complete directions with photos)

This month's notes: November 2014: Apples are still available!  Frosts and freezes have begun, so don't wait . Corn mazes and hayrides are still going in most places through the first week of November. Make your own homemade ice cream including low fat, low sugar and other flavors))  Have fun, eat healthier and better tasting, and save money by picking your own locally grown fruit and vegetables, and then using our easy canning and freezing directions

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How to Make Homemade Canned Peach Pickles (Pickled Peaches), Plums, Pears, Plums and Nectarines

Click here for a PDF print version

You think pickling and canning your own pickled peaches, pickled pears, pickled plums or pickled nectarines is difficult or expensive?  Not at all!  Here's how to do it, complete instructions in easy steps and completely illustrated. In the winter when you open a jar, the peaches will taste MUCH better than anything you've ever had from a store, and by selecting the right fruit, it will use less sugar than store-bought canned peach pickles (Pickled Peaches). Peaches, pears, plums, cherries or nectarines can be packed in very light, light or medium sugar syrup. They can also be packed in water, apple juice or white grape juice.

Prepared this way, the jars have a shelf life of about 12 to 18 months, and aside from storing in a cool, dark place, require no special attention. If you'd rather freeze your fruit, see my page on how to freeze peaches, plums, nectarines, figs and cherries. Even easier than canning and they will taste just like fresh.. but it does take up space in the freezer.

And here are some great and easy peach desert recipes!

 

Directions for Making Canned Peach Pickles (Pickled Peaches), Pears, Plums, Cherries or Nectarines

 Yields about six pint jars.

Ingredients and Equipment

  • Fruit about 10 lbs of peaches or other stone fruit (see step 1)
  • 6¾ cups sugar or Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) (or 4 cups of honey)
  • 1 quart vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 4 sticks cinnamon (2 inches long)
  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)
  • Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)
  • Jar funnel ($2 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates)
  • At least 1 large pot
  • Large spoons and ladles
  • Ball jars (Publix, Kroger, other grocery stores and some "big box" stores carry them - about $8 per dozen quart jars including the lids and rings)
  • 1 Water Bath Canner (a huge pot with a lifting rack to sanitize the jars of peaches after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores and local "big box" stores, but it's usually cheaper online from our affiliates) You CAN use a large pot instead, but the canners are deeper, and have a rack top make lifting the jars out easier. If you plan on canning every year, they're worth the investment.

Recipe and Directions

Step 1 - Selecting the peaches, plums, cherries or nectarines

The most important step!  You need 8 pounds of peeled, pitted peaches peaches that are sweet, and to make the work easier, cling-free (also called freestone).  This means that the peach separates easily from the pit!  Same with nectarines, and this doesn't apply to cherries or plums. Don't miss the peach picking tips page!

Choose ripe, mature fruit of ideal quality for eating fresh or cooking. They should not be mushy, but they also should not be rock hard: just as ripe as you would eat them fresh.

After this step, I'll just refer to "peaches" but it applies to plums, pears, cherries and nectarines.

 

Step 2 - How many peaches and where to get them

You can pick your own, or buy them at the grocery store.  But for large quantities, you'll find that real* farmer's markets, like the Farmer's Market in Forest Park, Georgia have them at the best prices. 

It takes about 5 good sizes peaches or nectarines (or about 10 plums) to fill one quart jar. This recipe calls for about 10 lbs of fruit to produce 6 or 7 pint jars., about 1½ to 2 pounds of fresh, raw fruit per finished pint.

* - not the cutesy, fake farmer's markets that are just warehouse grocery stores that call themselves farmer's markets.

Step 3 - Wash the jars and lids

This is a good time to get the jars ready! The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle. Otherwise put the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. I just put the lids in a small pot of almost boiling water for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" (available from target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page) to pull them out.

 

 

 

Step 4 -Wash the peaches!

I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the peaches in plain cold or lukewarm water

 

 

 

 

Step 5 - Peeling the Peaches

Nope, we're not going to peel them by hand; that's way too much work.  Instead, here's a great trick that works with many fruits and vegetables with skins (like tomatoes): just dip the fruit in boiling water for 20 to 45 seconds.

 

 

Remove from the boiling water using a slotted spoon and put into a large bowl or pot of cold water and ice for several minutes

 

 

 

 

The skins will easily slide off now! 

Nectarines do not need to be peeled, if you don't mind the skins. Neither do peaches, but most people prefer them with skins off - they tend to be slimy after all this.

 

 

 

Step 6 - Cut up the peaches

Cut out any brown spots and mushy areas. Cut the peaches in half, or quarters or slices, as you prefer! Remove pits!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 7 - Prevent the fruit from darkening!

Peaches will turn brown when exposed to air, even air in a sealed, sterile jar. To keep the fruit from turning brown, when you get a bowlful, sprinkle 1/4 cup lemon juice or Fruit-Fresh (which is just a mix of citric acid and vitamin C, perfectly natural).  Then stir the peaches to make sure all the surfaces have been coated.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 8 - Prepare the sugar (or other sweetener) solution

Peaches must be packed in a solution of water and sugar or fruit juice.  It's up to you which to use.  Sugar is added to improve flavor, help stabilize color, and retain the shape of the fruit. It is not added as a preservative. Sugar solution is much less expensive (unless you have a supply of cheap grape juice), so I usually use a light solution to keep sugar (and the added calories) to a minimum.

To prepare syrup, mix the following in  a pot:

  • 6¾ cups sugar or Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) (or 4 cups of honey)
  • 1 quart vinegar

Stir and bring to a gentle boil and keep it simmering for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam.

Step 9 - Put the spices in cheesecloth and add them

Put the

  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 4 sticks cinnamon (2 inches long)

Tie the cinnamon sticks and whole cloves in a double thickness of cheesecloth and add them to the pot. For spicier peaches, use additional cloves and cinnamon sticks. I use a baby's ice lollipop bag (available at mall kitchen stores, Target and other local "big box" stores) as it is reusable and easy to use (see the photo).

Step 10 - Cook the peaches

If the peaches are sitting in water, drain them, then gently drop the drained peaches into the boiling syrup and cook until they can be pierced with a fork, but are not yet soft. This heat treatment infuses the peaches with the spice and sweetener.

It also helps top reduce air entrapment (bubbles) as the cell structure of peaches tends to retain air; which is released during the heating prior to the jars being filled.  Hot packing also tends to produce brighter colors.

 

 

Step 11 - Allow the peaches to rest in syrup overnight

Remove from range and allow peaches to set in syrup overnight to plump. The "plumping" or swelling needs to occur before sealing in jars.

I leave them on the counter until they've cooled to room temperature, then place them in the fridge.

Step 12 - The next day, reheat the peaches

Bring the peaches in syrup back to a boil.pack into hot jars, leaving  headspace.

Step 13 - Fill the jars

Pack the peaches into sanitized jars (leaving ½-inch space at the top) and cover with boiling sugar syrup leaving the ½-inch headspace. Run a rubber spatula or table knife gently between peaches and jar to release trapped air bubbles. To do this more effectively, tilt the jar slightly while running the tool between the fruit and the edge of the jar and also pressing inward against the fruit a few times.

After packing the peaches in the jar, pour the sugar solution up to 1/2 inch (1 cm) from the top.  the fruit should be covered completely. If you have problems with fruit darkening (turning brown) later, then sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of FruitFresh or ascorbic acid into the top of the jar before you seal it.

Wipe rim and screw threads with a clean damp cloth. Add lid, screw band and tighten firmly and evenly. Do not over tighten.

Tips!

Canned fruits often will float if the sugar syrup is too heavy, if jars are packed too loosely or if air remains in the tissues of the fruit after processing. To avoid this use a light or medium sugar syrup, make sure fruit is firm and ripe and pack fruit tightly in jars without crushing.

If fruit is not covered by liquid it may darken during storage (but does not necessarily mean it is spoiled, as all fruits will darken somewhat). To avoid this be sure fruit is covered by removing air bubbles from jars liquid while still leaving the recommended head space. Also be sure to remove trapped air bubbles as described earlier.

Peaches, pears and apples may also show a blue, red or pink color change after canning. This is the result of natural chemical changes that sometimes occur as fruits are heated. It is harmless and won't affect flavor!

Also, avoid storing canned food near heat sources such as a furnace, water heater, hot water or sunny areas. Jars need to be kept cool and dark for longer storage life and to protect against spoilage. Be sure to store in a dry place. If the lid or band rusts, that can cause the seal to break.

Step 14 - Process the jars in the water bath

Put the sealed jars in the canner and keep them cover with at least 1 inch of water and boiling. In general, if you are at sea level, boil them for 20 minutes.

Here are more specific guidelines from the USDA for canning peaches in a boiling-water, a dial, or a weighted-gauge canner:

 

 

 

 

Table 1. Recommended process time for Peaches, halved or sliced
in a boiling-water canner.

Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 3,000 ft 3,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot
 
Pints
Quarts
20 min
25
25
30
30
35
35
40
Raw
 
Pints
Quarts
25
30
30
35
35
40
40
45

 

Table 2. Process Times for Peaches (Halved or Sliced)
in a Dial-Gauge Pressure Canner.

  Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time (Min) 0 - 2,000 ft 2,001 - 4,000 ft 4,001 - 6,000 ft 6,001 - 8,000 ft
Hot and
Raw
Pints or
Quarts
10 6 7 8 9

 

Table 3. Process Times for Peaches (Halved or Sliced)
in a Weighted-Gauge Pressure Canner.

  Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time (Min) 0 - 1,000 ft Above 1,000 ft
Hot and
Raw
Pints or
Quarts
10 5 10

 

Step 15 - Remove and cool

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight), here they won't be bumped. You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture.

Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger.

If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid (with a new lid) and reprocess the jar, while it’s still hot for the full time in the canner – that’s acceptable!

 

 

This recipe was originally from Clemson University!

Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongs 
            helpful to pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter 
            - to remove lids from the pot 
            of hot water 
  3. Lid 
           - disposable - you may only 
           use them once
  4. Ring 
          - holds the lids on the jar until after
          the jars cool - then you don't need them
  5. Canning jar funnel
          - to fill the jars

 

Frequently asked questions!

  1. Is it safe to can unpeeled peaches? I've spent hours on websites and read several books on canning - to no avail. This is the second year I've canned unpeeled peaches in a 5 to 1 water to sugar syrup (we're still alive). All my friends, their mothers and everything I've read says to peel and I'm beginning to buckle under all the finger wagging!!! 
     
    Answer: Buckle not! It is perfectly safe to can peaches with the skins on!  Most people don't because some folks think it feels like they're swallowing a cat (short hair, not Persian) when they eat a peach with the fuzzy skin still on! :)  But it is perfectly safe! (canning unskinned peaches, not cats, that is!  :) ..I'm gonna get letters on this one, for sure...

     


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Picking Tips

[General picking tips and a guide to each fruit and vegetable] [How much do I need to pick? (Yields - how much raw makes how much cooked or frozen)] [Selecting the right varieties to pick] [All about apple varieties - which to pick and why!]  [Picking tips for Vegetables] [ Strawberry picking tips] [ Blueberries picking tips]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are reusable)! There is also a simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if you want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!
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